Clean-Up Mission: Avala

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Nemanja Miltenovic,  A-SMYLE Serbia ‘13

A-SMYLE at Avala, a mountain near Belgrade.

A-SMYLE at Avala, a mountain near Belgrade.

The month of September was pretty busy for A-SMYLE alumni.  The newest generation had the objectives to create their first projects, attend a leadership seminar, promote the A-SMYLE program, and much more.  There were also two environment events that month, one of them being on the mountain Avala, just outside of Belgrade.

The event was organized thanks to “Srbija Sume” (“Serbia Forests”), one of whose employees is an alumnus of Open World, a U.S. Government program that sends experts from around the world to the United States for a week to exchange experiences and learn more about their profession.

Alumni listen to Avala park staff before starting their clean up.

Alumni listen to Avala park staff before starting their clean up.

We were warmly greeted by everyone at the park, who all had a story about the area and the goals for the day.  And as fast as you can say “tree”, we split up into groups and started circling the area with garbage bags.

Surprisingly, the forest was pretty clean.  You could still find a plastic bottle or two, but that was mostly it.  After we were done collecting all the trash, we began raking leaves and sweeping the trails.  We finished fairly quickly and then headed back to the “Srbija Sume” local headquarters. There, we were pleasantly surprised—the workers had erected stations with games for us to compete in.  The games included corn husking, sawing a log, jumping in a bag, and many more fun activities.

Alumni hard at work.

Alumni hard at work.

We divided into teams of four, and American Councils staff played with us as well.  The competition was tense and everyone did great, but unfortunately only one team could win.  (I don’t want to brag, but my team won.)

After all the exercise, “Srbija Sume” was kind enough to take us all for lunch at a local restaurant, for which we were grateful after the hard day of work.

Overall, the event was really fun and yet productive.  We got a chance to meet new alumni, learn new things about Serbia, and most importantly, do something to preserve the National Park of Avala.

Alumni participating in a teambuilding game directed by Avala park staff.

Alumni participating in a teambuilding game directed by Avala park staff.